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Tampa Bay Lightning announce 2016 "Black Aces"

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Plenty of familiar faces were recalled to the Tampa Bay Lightning this afternoon to serve as the team "Black Aces" in the playoffs.

Syracuse Crunch center Matt Peca lines up for a faceoff against the St. John's Icecaps.
Syracuse Crunch center Matt Peca lines up for a faceoff against the St. John's Icecaps.
Scott Thomas

Plenty of familiar faces from the Syrause Crunch were officially recalled this afternoon by the Tampa Bay Lightning. In total, six forwards were promoted to go along with four defensemen and the two Syracuse goaltenders. To be a black ace, your job is two fold: Gain experience by practicing and being exposed to the NHL playoff atmosphere, and serving as depth in case an injury occurs.

Forwards:

Up front, Tampa went with rookie power forward Adam Erne who had a decent year with AHL Syracuse despite an early season hand injury (14g, 15a) and rookie center Matthew Peca. Peca much like Erne was set back a bit after suffering a long term injury. He was able to rebound nicely and finished his season with an impressive 43 points (8g, 35a).

Third year pro Tanner Richard also got the nod to join the big club after having the best season of his professional career (11g, 43a). Tanner is an RFA at the end of this year and is expected to be back in the organization in some capacity for the 2016-2017 campaign. It is still to be seen whether or not he makes the Bolts out of camp, or is sporting a letter on his sweater for the Crunch.

Joel Vermin joins the group after finishing the year hot in Syracuse (9g, 12a). Vermin played six games with Tampa Bay this year before being put out of action a few months with an injury. Veteran Tye McGinn was the last of the Crunch forwards to be recalled. Tye played a vital role in a Syracuse offense that struggled much of the year. He put up a total of 44 points (20g, 24a), and also played two games for Tampa Bay.

WHL standout Brayden Point is ready to make the leap to the professional game after spending the better part of five seasons with the Moose Jaw Warriors. From 2011 to 2016 Brayden scored 134 goals and 190 assists for a total of 320 points. He will join Tampa for the post-season and will join the Syracuse Crunch for the 2016-2017 season.

Defensemen:

Blueliners on recall include second year pros Dylan Blujus and Slater Koekkoek. Dylan had a fairly consistent season but has a lot of work to do before reaching NHL status. Blujus put up 19 points in 61 games for Syracuse this year and was a -5. Koekkoek skated in 60 games for the Crunch putting up 15 points. Koekkoek looks by far to be the closest defensmen ready to take on a full time roll in Tampa.

Syracuse fan favorite Luke Witkowski joins them after having an up and down year for the Crunch. Luke put up 14 points to go along with 166 penalty minutes. Always first to defend his teammates and lay a big hit, he struggled at times in his own zone. His contract is coming to an end after this year and as a UFA he is trying to earn a contract for the upcoming season. He is widely considered to be a top option to wear the "C" for the 'Cuse if current captain Mike Angelidis was not brought back.

The final defensemen on recall is 2014 first round draft pick Anthony DeAngelo. DeAngelo got off to a quick start with the Crunch posting points early and often. He fell in to slumps at times yet still ended the year with with an impressive 43 points. If he can clean up his play and his attitude, he has the potential to be a star in the NHL.

Goaltenders:

Both Crunch goaltenders are in Tampa soaking up the atmosphere. Kristers Gudlevskis heads to Tampa as an upcoming RFA. It will be interesting to see if he returns next year or looks to take his talent elsewhere. He finished the year in Syracuse with 16 wins and a 2.83 goals against average.

Rookie goaltender and former Golden Gopher Adam Wilcox joins his counterpart in Tampa after having a pretty promising first year in Syracuse. He played much better than his 3.34 GAA would suggest and has a real shot at grabbing the reigns as the number one goalie with the Crunch next year.

Notable snubs:

  • Jeff Tambellini: 29g + 20a = 49 points
  • Yanni Gourde: 14g + 30a = 44 points